Giant Interactive Portraits of Youth Activists Installed at City Hall
There is a new monument in the city of Richmond. It was erected by youth advocates calling for alternatives to sending kids to prison.
Richmond-based organizations RISE for Youth and Performing Statistics unveiled the installation at City Hall, called Freedom Constellations. It features two 160-feet tall portraits of brother and sister Ta’Dreama McBride and Clyde Walker that come alive when viewers scan a QR code and hover their phones over the photos from a distance.
A poem collectively written by youth justice leaders across the country plays over interactive 3-D illustrations.
“I see money that would have been going toward putting youth in cages that is now being put into the school system, into jobs, into support for kids,” the poem says.
It can be viewed on the northwest corner of 9th Street and Marshall Street, directly in front of the John Marshall House.
Organizers say it is the largest public art installation on a municipal building in the country that uses augmented reality.
McBride, 14, is an activist with RISE for Youth, a campaign that promotes community-based alternatives to youth incarceration.
"We need people to take the first step,” McBride said.” Donate to smaller organizations like RISE for Youth and Performing Statistics. Put in that time. Put in that energy into our youth. Give them opportunities. Open doors for us so we can be able to show what we can do.”
Black youth accounted for 57% of youth suspended in Virginia during the 2016-2017 school year, although they make up 21% of the state’s population according to a 2019 Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis and RISE for Youth report. Black teens also made up 54% of minors reported to juvenile courts by school authorities and 49% of minors detained in local jails. Nearly three quarters of young people sent to the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice are Black
Performing Statistics Creative Director Mark Strandquist captured the portraits that are now on display at City Hall.
“As a photographer, my goal is to be a mirror and a megaphone,” he said. “So first and foremost, I want folks I’m working with to see how powerful their voices are, how important their vision, how needed their leadership is in this city.”
Strandquist remarked on the sheer size of the portraits, and the message that sends to people in Richmond.
“You can see this installation from Mosby Court. You can see this installation from Northside. You can see it from 95 and 64, from all over the city,” he said. “This is the largest billboard in the city.”
The installation will remain through November 30, 2021. The city plans to continue this project for the next three years focusing on different populations—including people with disabilities, immigrants, and the aging.